November 19, 2007

Federal court voids U.S. fuel mileage standard exemption for SUVs and pickups

San Francisco, California – The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Bush government violated the law by ignoring global warming when it decided to exempt SUVs and light trucks from fuel economy standards. The court sent the decision back to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a full environmental review of the gas mileage standards.

The ruling, written by Senior Circuit Judge Betty Binns Fletcher, states, “That class 2b trucks have never been regulated by NHTSA is not a reason for not regulating them now. We remand to NHTSA to revisit this issue and promulgate average fuel economy standards for these vehicles, or to provide a validly reasoned basis for continuing to exclude them from the regulation.”

The Ninth Circuit filed its decision on the case, Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Traffic Administration, which was filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic. The case is consolidated with similar challenges by California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, District of Columbia, the city of New York, and the public-interest groups Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen and Environmental Defense.

“This ruling is a big help in holding the Bush administration accountable for its refusal to accept the realities of global warming and forcing it to start taking responsible actions to implement the obvious solutions,” said Kassie Siegel, Climate, Air, and Energy program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Raising fuel-economy standards is one of the most effective actions the government can take to quickly and significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution. There’s no reason SUVs and light trucks should be exempt from these standards.”

Plaintiffs in the case argued that the administration violated the Energy Policy and Conservation Act by setting low fuel-economy standards of 22.5, 23.1 and 23.5 mpg US (10.6, 10.3 and 10.2 L/100 km) for upcoming model years 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. Plaintiffs also argued that the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions and global warming before selecting the low mileage standards.

“This is an important victory in the fight against global warming,” said Deborah Sivas, director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and the attorney of record on the case. “It’s hard to imagine a federal action more significant to the problem of climate change than one which dictates fuel-consumption standards.”

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